The Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour premiered on NBC in 1983, ironically replacing Fantasy, hosted by Peter Marshall. The first half of the show was played like the old Match Game from the 1970s, with Gene Rayburn once again hosting...a goofy joke with a blank. Then the celebrities write their answers...the contestant gives his or her response, which, as always, is usually lame, then the celebrities give their answer, one of which is usually the best and most obvious. The tiebreaker was done straight and the contestants would choose possible answers by the number, and the first to get a match would win. Then, midway through the show, the winner would go onto the Hollywood Squares segment. A large part of the set would then move into place to accomodate three more celebrities, who would then walk out on stage, their names appearing almost two stories high on a lighted panel. Match Game panelist Jon Bauman would then take over as host, with Gene Rayburn taking a seat on the Squares board. The first Squares game would be worth 100 dollars, the second worth 200, and each succeeding game worth another 100 until the time's up bell. The players would also get 25 dollars per square. And if the contestant missed a question, the other contestant got the square, even if it meant a win (a drastic change from the original Squares, apparently meant to save time.) The contestant with the most money would win. (In another change, a buzzer would sound if the contestant missed a question, a bell would ring if they got the square. The original Squares was never big on sound effects, but the bell sounding for a square remained in effect as late as the 1998-2004 version.) Then the winner would play the big money "Super Match" round from Match Game (based on the first version used in the 1970s), with eight Squares celebrities and Bauman on the panel, and Rayburn once again hosting.
It's not known if "zingers" were encouraged on this show, but it's obvious from watching it that writers did not provide them. (In fact, producer Mark Goodson strongly opposed writers coming up with zingers, on ethical grounds, and Goodson/Todman had prided themselves on the fact that the 1970s Match Game derived most of its humor from spontaniety.) Usually it was up to the stars to come up with something on the spot, which is perhaps why at least one panelist was usually a standup comedian (Jimmie Walker, Gallagher, Arsenio Hall). Host Jon Bauman was formerly "Bowser" of the '50s nostalgia pop group Sha Na Na, making him the only Hollywood Squares host, or host of any other game show, to be onstage at Woodstock. Bauman was no Peter Marshall, and among game show fans he was the least-liked of any of the Squares hosts, but he held his own. (Some of his answers as a Match Game panelist did produce a few groans from the audience, though, but invariably he'd be picked at the tail end of the Super Match.) Also, when Rayburn was called upon for a question during the Squares segment on the first show, Bauman issued a disclaimer that Rayburn never saw any of the questions beforehand. Theme weeks included one devoted to soap stars. An especially memorable theme week featured cast members from Leave It to Beaver, many of whom had just been reunited in a CBS-TV movie, "Still the Beaver"...Jerry Mathers (Beaver), Jeri Weil (Judy Hensler), Ken Osmond (Eddie Haskell), Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), Frank Bank (Lumpy Rutherford), Richard Correll (Beaver's friend Richard), and in one of his very last TV appearances before his death, Richard Deacon (Lumpy's obnoxious dad, Fred Rutherford). The show lasted a year in NBC's afternoon lineup. Perhaps the busy format helped keep the ratings down, but more likely it was stiff competition from ABC's General Hospital, which was still in the midst of its Luke and Laura glory years. In any event, it was NBC's only attempt to ever bring the show back (now that NBC President and the man who cancelled the Marshall version, apparent Squares-hater Fred Silverman, was gone) and one last chance to see Gene Rayburn in his greatest role ever, as master of the Match Game (even if he didn't like the format and especially didn't like Bauman).